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Thursday, August 19, 2010

[WA] Tragic Zillah fire that killed 3 from WSP leaves questions and sadness

..."The citizens have lost three guardian angels in my view," says Chief Batiste...

Victims of a house fire in Zillah, WA on August 16th:
...are identified as Anne Miller-Hewitt, who supervised 15 dispatchers at the Wenatchee 911 center; her husband, Sunnyside-based Trooper Gary Miller; and Trooper Kristopher Sperry, a native of Eureka, Mont., who graduated from the [Washington] State Patrol academy in June and was living with the Millers at their home near Zillah... A brief 911 call was made from inside the house... One item missing from the investigation is a recording of the 9-1-1 call Miller-Hewitt made at 1:08 a.m. Monday to report the fire. The call was not archived at the city of Yakima’s dispatch center because of a recorder problem... The State Patrol's crime lab earlier this week completed tests of soil samples and materials where a dog signaled there were accelerants...


A community service honoring the lives of Washington State Patrol Trooper Gary Miller, Communications Officer Anne Miller-Hewitt, and Trooper Kristopher Sperry will be held on Friday, August 27, at 1:00 p.m. at the Yakima Sundome. The public is welcomed to attend... For officers who may wish to participate, a law enforcement procession will take place prior to the service... Those wishing to make a donation may contact the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation...

VIDEO
[WA] WSP Lt. wishes he could hear, "997 in service

News excerpts Aug 16 - Aug 19:

YAKIMA COUNTY
3 Washington State Patrol employees believed dead in Zillah fire
The Associated Press
08/16/10
[Excerpts] Two Washington State Patrol troopers and the head of the agency's emergency call center in Wenatchee were believed to be dead Monday after an early-morning house fire in Yakima County. Investigators had not entered the fire scene by midday, but the house was destroyed and there's no evidence anyone escaped... The victims were identified as Anne Miller-Hewitt, who supervised 15 dispatchers at the Wenatchee 911 center; her husband, Sunnyside-based Trooper Gary Miller; and Trooper Kristopher Sperry, a native of Eureka, Mont., who graduated from the State Patrol academy in June and was living with the Millers at their home near Zillah... "We have no indication that this was a crime or a suspicious fire at all right now," Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley said are simply conducting a fire investigation to make sure there is no suspicious reason for the fire starting." The fire was reported at 1:38 a.m. Monday in a 911 call from inside the home, which was several hundred yards from the closest neighbors, Yakima County Sheriff's Detective Stu Graham said. Graham said he didn't know who placed the call. "It was a very brief conversation," Graham said. "They said that the house is on fire, they were instructed to leave the house, and that was pretty much the end of the call." He said he did not know how long it took firefighters to arrive... [Full article here]

Unimaginable loss':' Troopers believed killed in fire: Two Washington State Patrol troopers and a dispatch supervis or are missing and believed to have died in a house fire early Monday morning in Eastern Washington.
KOMO Staff
Aug 16, 2010
[Excerpts] Two Washington State Patrol troopers and a dispatcher are missing and believed to have died in a house fire in a rural Washington town south of Yakima early Monday morning... It was not clear how the fire started, but sources said the home in the 300 block of Falcon Ridge Road was already engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived about 1:38 a.m... "Ann and Gary were long-time employees, and were the best of the best," State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said in a written statement. "We were just getting to know Kristopher, but he had excelled at the Academy and had a very promising future with our agency"... "This is just an unimaginable loss for us," [State Patrol Spokesman Bob Calkins] said. "Really a very dark day"... [Full article here]

UPDATED ON THE 17TH
'Unimaginable loss': Troopers killed in fire
Two Washington State Patrol troopers and a dispatch supervisor died in a house fire in Zillah early Monday morning in Eastern Washington.

komo
Story Published: Aug 16, 2010 at 11:05 AM PDT
Story Updated: Aug 17, 2010 at 6:56 AM PDT
[Excerpts] ...It was not clear how the fire started, but the home in the 300 block of Falcon Ridge Road was already engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. The fire was reported at 1:38 a.m. in a 911 call from inside the home by Anne Miller-Hewitt, the patrol said. It's not clear why she was not able to get out. "It was a very brief conversation," said Yakima County Sheriff's Detective Stew Graham said. "(She) said that the house is on fire, they were instructed to leave the house, and that was pretty much the end of the call"... One of the neighbors did notice the fire and rushed over to help, but it was too late. "I yelled for anyone who was in there to get out, and I didn't hear any response," said Kyle Kluever. He and other neighbors said they noticed a small fire outside before it engulfed the home. Neither Gary Miller nor Sperry were believed to have worked on any controversial cases recently that might have generated enemies, Graham said... The bodies of all three victims were located by 9 p.m. Monday, sheriff's Detective Stew Graham said in an e-mail... Governor Chris Gregoire issued the following statement: "I am deeply saddened about the deaths of three Washington State Patrol employees - and send my heartfelt condolences to the friends, families and co-workers of those tragically killed. These individuals dedicated their lives to protecting our neighbors and communities, and should forever be remembered for their commitment to ensuring our safety. I'm sure all Washingtonians share my profound gratitude for their service" Anne Miller-Hewitt has been with the State Patrol since 1987. She was a high-ranking communications officer and led the Patrol's 911 center in Wenatchee. Her husband joined the department in 1989 and has worked in the Sunnyside area his entire career... Sperry, originally from Eureka, Montana, graduated from the academy in June and was awarded for being the most physically-fit cadet in the class. He joined the State Patrol after a stint in the Army as a paralegal. His first assignment as a trooper was to guard the governor's mansion in Olympia... [State Patrol Chief John] Batiste said the State Patrol will be supporting everyone who worked with the three employees who died. "They are understandably devastated by this tragedy and we have no higher priority than helping them get through this difficult time"... In the meantime, [Trooper Tom Pillow with the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association] has a way for you to offer your own support. "If the public happens to see a uniformed officer, whether it be a trooper or any police officer, maybe just say, 'hey, thanks for what you're doing, we're thinking about you and we're sorry for your loss,' and it will go a long way, believe me," he said. [Full article here]

...So many questions remain unanswered, like how did the fire start, why didn't the victims escape, and why did it burn so fast. The W.S.P. will give investigators as much time as they need, and it may take several days to find the answers...

Investigators Look For Answers in Fire That Kills 3 State Patrol Employees
kapptv.com
By David Mance
August 16th, 2010
[Excerpts] Sheriff's deputies will guard the scene at the top of Falcon Ridge Road overnight... It all began around one this morning, when a frantic call to 9-1-1 made by Mrs. Miller as the fire raged, and police say the line suddenly went dead. Neighbor Kyle Kluever saw the house on Falcon Ridge Road near Zillah on fire around one this morning, and tried to help. "Went out back and was yelling if anyone was in there, you know I was like hey if anyone's in there get out but I didn't hear a reply," says Kluever. At the same time Washington State Patrol troopers starting hearing the news of a fire at a familiar address. "We had troopers who heard the call being dispatched, and in turn responded," says Chief John Batiste. They would learn three of their own died in the fire. Trooper Gary Miller, his dispatcher wife Anne-Mller-Hewitt, and new trooper Kristopher Sperry, who accepted the Miller's offer to stay with them while his house was being built. "That's just the kind of guy Gary was, a loving individual with a big heart. The citizens have lost three guardian angels in my view," says Chief Batiste... "It's a shame they're good people, and you don't want to see anyone perish, and when you know them it's a little bit harder to take," says [Zillah mayor Gary] Clark. So many questions remain unanswered, like how did the fire start, why didn't the victims escape, and why did it burn so fast. The W.S.P. will give investigators as much time as they need, and it may take several days to find the answers... [Full article here]

Wenatchee 911 supervisor among those believed dead
Wenatchee World
By K.C. Mehaffey
Monday, August 16, 2010
ZILLAH — Ann Miller-Hewitt, who supervised the Washington State Patrol’s 911 center in Wenatchee... Miller-Hewitt, 54, lived in Zillah, but rented a place in Wenatchee and spent weekdays here ever since she was promoted to the agency’s dispatch supervisor in 2007, said Trooper Rich Magnussen... She commuted to Zillah on weekends to be with her husband, Trooper Gary Miller... Trooper Kristopher Sperry, 30, was living with them while his house was being built... Miller-Hewitt was originally from Prosser, and worked for the State Patrol since 1987, working in the Yakima area until her promotion three years ago... Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said staff from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the State Patrol are conducting an investigation. State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley said the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigative agency on the fire... [Full article here]

UPDATE Two state troopers, dispatch manager killed in Zillah house fire
Yakima Herald-Republic
By Erin Snelgrove and David Lester
August 16, 2010
[Excerpts] The fire was reported about 1 a.m. in the 300 block of Falcon Ridge Road, near the Cheyne Landfill, according to Yakima County Fire District 5... 17-year-old Kyle Kluever said he was still awake and was outside when he saw flames about a mile away. Thinking it was a longtime friend’s house, he drove there to find it was the Miller house on fire. He said he and his friend, Cameron Stump, ran the 200-yard distance to the house, which was already heavily engulfed in flames. Kluever said he yelled in an attempt to wake the occupants but received no response. He ran around to the back of the two-story structure and started to open a sliding glass door, but thought better of it because of the chance of an explosion. Kluever said he heard ammunition being set off and rounds whizzing past his head as he approached the house. In hindsight, Kluever said he wishes he had been able to do more... State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley said the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office is the lead investigative agency on the fire... [Full article here]

Two state troopers, dispatch manager killed in house fire in Zillah
Seattle Times
By Jennifer Sullivan and Sara Jean Green
Monday, August 16, 2010
[Excerpts] ...The cause of the fire is unknown. "We have no indication that this was a crime or a suspicious fire at all right now," said Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley... According to the Patrol, Miller-Hewitt called 911 around 1 a.m. to report the fire in their home, in the 300 block of Falcon Ridge Road. State troopers, who were on duty and recognized the address as belonging to colleagues, responded to the home along with fire, aid units and police... The home was "fully engulfed" by the time they arrived, State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said during a news conference... A neighbor, 17-year-old Kyle Kluever, said he couldn't sleep and had gone outside to watch the meteor showers when he saw flames about a mile away. Thinking that a friend's house or field was on fire, he drove to Falcon Ridge Road, where he saw that the Millers' house was on fire. Within seconds, the house was fully engulfed, with flames shooting approximately 50 feet in the air, Kluever said. Kluever said he yelled in an effort to wake the Miller family, and then woke his friends' family. Together, they began to wake other neighbors, fearing that the dry grass could lead to wildfire. Kluever said he heard ammunition going off in the burning house. "I heard one whiz to my left, then one to my right. I ducked down behind one of those cars and cut out to the neighbor's house," he said... Authorities began going through the wreckage of the home just after 2 p.m. A dog trained to sniff out accelerants was being used in the investigation... [Full article here]

Investigators Look For Answers in Fire That Kills 3 State Patrol Employees
kapptv.com
By David Mance.
August 16th, 2010
[Excerpts] ...Sheriff's deputies will guard the scene at the top of Falcon Ridge Road overnight... It all began around one this morning, when a frantic call to 9-1-1 made by Mrs. Miller as the fire raged, and police say the line suddenly went dead... "It's a shame they're good people, and you don't want to see anyone perish, and when you know them it's a little bit harder to take," says [Zillah mayor Gary] Clark. So many questions remain unanswered, like how did the fire start, why didn't the victims escape, and why did it burn so fast. The W.S.P. will give investigators as much time as they need, and it may take several days to find the answers... [Full article here]

...The question is, will the investigation turn up any signs of foul play? Or was it just a terrible accident?... As the neighbor pointed out to KIMA, from her perspective, the house went up in flames very fast, within a matter of minutes. We wanted to know if that was possible. So we spoke with several local fire investigators who say it happens all the time...

Zillah Fire: Neighbor Says House Engulfed in Minutes
KIMA
By Melissa Wagner
Aug 16, 2010 at 5:46 PM PDT
[Excerpts] ...KIMA learned it was Anne [Miller Hewitt] who called 911 to report the fire. She quickly managed to tell dispatch there was ammunition in the house, and that they were getting out. "It was a very brief call," said Yakima Sheriffs detective, Stew Graham.... One neighbor tells KIMA when she walked by her front window and saw the flames they were at the lower level. Two minutes later, after she made a call to 911, they were clear to the top. Dolly Heyler said, "Whatever happened it was immediate. You know, it just went through the house." Dolly said the first fire truck got there about 10 minutes after she called 911. It was followed by a steady stream of vehicles all rushing to the scene. "Then by 2:30 (a.m.) the house had collapsed. It was completely engulfed," said Heyler... The ATF was called in to investigate. But agents had to wait most of the day for what's left of the house to cool off and stop smoldering before they could start. The State Patrol crime lab and YSO are also there. The deaths were announced even before any bodies were found. Graham said, "The probability is, it's a death investigation." The question is, will the investigation turn up any signs of foul play? Or was it just a terrible accident? It's the search for answers at what's left of the home on Falcon Ridge. As the neighbor pointed out to KIMA, from her perspective, the house went up in flames very fast, within a matter of minutes. We wanted to know if that was possible. So we spoke with several local fire investigators who say it happens all the time. Even with newer homes, like this one. They say there are a lot of synthetic materials in new builds that can speed up a fire. Once it's cooled enough for the ATF to go in, officers will start to "de-layer" the rubble... "They are expert fire investigators and I'm certain with time and a meticulous investigation they'll be able to determine the cause or if there's anything suspicious, act on it," said Lt. Jim Keightly with Washington State Police... [Full article here]

Three WSP employees killed in Zillah house fire
KNDU
Posted: Aug 16, 2010 11:26 AM PDT
Updated: Aug 17, 2010 5:06 AM PDT
[Excerpts] ...It was the home of Trooper Gary Miller and Anne Miller-Hewitt, a communications officer. Also living at the residence was Trooper Kristopher Sperry. Neighbors and troopers we're surprised and saddened when they found out it was the Miller's home. "Just a nice guy all the way around, he'd do anything for ya," said neighbor Ken Johnson. He's known Gary Miller for years, coaching his sons in cross-county. Fellow troopers have the same thing to say, Miller was respected and loved. Miller-Hewitt was recently promoted to Wenatchee as a communications officer and had also been with the WSP for over 20 years... Trooper Sperry, a recent academy graduate, was staying with the Miller's while his new home was being built. He's from Eureka, MT. Troopers say it wasn't unusual for the Miller's to house new troopers... Law enforcement from all over have converged on the scene, doing what they can to help and sharing stories of the friends they've lost... "Ann and Gary were long-time employees, and were the best of the best," said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. "We were just getting to know Kristopher, but he had excelled at the Academy and had a very promising future with our agency"... [Full article here]

Three Wash. State Patrol employees killed in Zillah fire
KING 5 News
by Eric Wilkinson
Posted on August 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM
Updated Tuesday, Aug 17 at 9:06 AM
[Excerpts] ..."I can think of it like losing a father or a mother, that close. I've had multiple officers who have left here in tears," said Trooper Robert Lamay, who knew all three of the dead. To him, losing so many so quickly is hard to comprehend. "You get up every morning thinking I might get shot or get in a fight, but your house burning down and you dying in it isn't in anybody's thought process," he said... [Full article here]

UPDATED
Two Wash. Troopers, Dispatcher Die in Fire
The Seattle Times
By Jennifer Sullivan and Sara Jean Green
Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Updated: August 17th, 2010 10:40 AM EDT
[Excerpts] ...[Anne] Miller-Hewitt, 54, held the rank of communications officer four, the civilian equivalent of lieutenant. She headed the State Patrol's 911 center in Wenatchee, supervising 15 of the agency's dispatchers... [State Patrol Chief John] Batiste said [Trooper Gary] Miller had gone out of his way to help all those he encountered... [Trooper Kristopher] Sperry was planning to move out of the Millers' home later this week, according to Stew Graham, chief of detectives for the Yakima County Sheriff's Office... Gov. Christine Gregoire issued the following statement: "I am deeply saddened about the deaths of three Washington State Patrol employees -- and send my heartfelt condolences to the friends, families and co-workers of those tragically killed. These individuals dedicated their lives to protecting our neighbors and communities, and should forever be remembered for their commitment to ensuring our safety. I'm sure all Washingtonians share my profound gratitude for their service"... [Full article here]

Investigators looking for cause of fatal Zillah fire: Three employees of the Washington State Patrol were killed in a house fire near Zillah in Yakima County.
by KING 5 News, NWCN.com
Posted on August 17, 2010 at 9:21 AM
[Excerpts] ...WSP Lt Jim Keightley, who worked with all three of the victims, said the fire moved very quickly and the home was engulfed in a matter of minutes. Police say there was a brief 911 call from Ann Miller-Hewitt at about 1:38 a.m. Monday. "She said the house was on fire, she provided the address. The 911 dispatcher told her to leave the residence. She said they were going to and the call was terminated," said Stew Graham, Yakima Co. Sheriff's Office. It's not known why the three did not make it out of the house. Keightley said the deaths of three colleagues is "personally horrific. We've lost three valued employees," he said. "It is unfathomable to me and to the rest of us who knew them well that we lost all three of them at the same time, in the same circumstance. Not only were they valued members of our State Patrol family, they were dedicated public servants for the state of Washington," he said. The Millers owned the residence. Sperry had graduated from the State Patrol academy in June and was living with the Millers while waiting to close on his own home... Keightley said there is no indication that the fire is suspicious. [Full article here]

...Investigators are treating the deaths of the Millers and Sperry as homicides until the evidence they've been collecting takes them in a different direction...

Authorities working to determine how State Patrol employees died
KXLY4
Jeff Humphrey
August 17, 2010
[Excerpts] The Yakima County Coroner has begun the autopsies for three Washington State Patrol employees who were killed in a house fire in Zillah Monday. The bodies of Trooper Gary Miller, his wife and dispatch supervisor Anne Miller-Hewitt and Trooper Kristopher Sperry have all now been recovered from the remains of the Miller residence. Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins knew both of the Millers; it certainly won’t be easy attending their autopsies but Hawkins’ expertise could give their family and friends some badly needed answers... “Anne made a call and said there was a fire and very momentarily the phone went dead,” Lieutenant Jim Keightley with the Washington State Patrol said. Investigators are unsure why Anne, her husband Garry and Trooper Sperry were unable to escape. Their neighbor never saw any signs the occupants where trying to get out. “I yelled for anyone who was in there to get out but I didn't hear any response,” neighbor Kyle Kluever said. While the coroner is working to confirm how they died investigators are at the home trying to figure out what caused the fire. They are concerned about statements made by neighbors who reported seeing the fire start outside the home Investigators are treating the deaths of the Millers and Sperry as homicides until the evidence they've been collecting takes them in a different direction. A dog specifically trained to sniff out accelerants was brought in to check out the home; officials haven’t said whether or not the dog alerted on anything... [Full article here]

Three Remains Found In Zillah House Fire
KIMATV
By Hayley Guenthner
Story Published: Aug 17, 2010
[Excerpts] ...Neighbor Dolly Heyler said the three story wood house on Falcon Ridge Road was fairly new. She said she was shocked how fast it went up in flames. "I went to the bathroom and in passing I saw flames in our front room window," she said. "I had to go to the bathroom, but as I came back out, the flames were clear up here." Heyler then dialed 911, and the first fire truck arrived about 10 minutes after her call. It was too late. "By 2:30 the house had collapsed," she said. State Trooper Gary Miller, his wife Anne-Hewitt Miller and Trooper Kristopher Sperry were all killed in the blaze. Law Enforcement Agencies from across the state have stepped in to help figure out how this happened..."We want to be sensitive to the victims, and make sure we don't miss anything. Investigators will take their time and do a real thorough investigation," [WSP Trooper Rich] Magnussen said... [Full article here]

Cause of fatal blaze at Patrol employees' house could take weeks to find
Seattle Times
By Sara Jean Green
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 11:10 AM
[Excerpts] The fire that raced through the two-story house just outside Zillah early Monday burned so hot and fast that only the foundation remained once the flames were put out... They pulled the last body from the rubble around 10 p.m., nearly 20 hours after a 911 call came from inside the house... "It was burned down to the foundation. There's very little left of the structure, and most of it is all in the basement," [Stew Graham, chief of detectives for the Yakima County Sheriff's Office] said Tuesday from the base of Falcon Ridge Road, a gravel tract that leads up into the dusty hills where the Millers' house sat among a small cluster of homes. Graham said investigators are taking everything they find in the basement and spreading it out on a nearby field. "There's a lot of sifting that's involved," he said. "Nothing has been eliminated and no conclusions have been drawn at this point about the cause of the fire"... [Yakima County Coroner Jack] Hawkins said that dental records will be used to positively identify the remains. According to Graham, Miller-Hewitt, the manager of the Patrol's emergency-dispatch center in Wenatchee, called 911 at 1:08 a.m. Monday to report a fire in the two-story home with a daylight basement. She was told to get out and said she would. Soon after, neighbors began calling 911 to report the blaze... [Full article here]

Fire Investigation Continues On Falcon Ridge Road
KIMATV.com
By Melissa Wagner
Aug 17, 2010
[Excerpts] ...As you can see, crews spent the day in the heat, looking for anything that could be salvaged and clues to how the fire started. And why those inside, couldn't make it out. "That entails moving every board that's down, all the debris, to look at every single piece of ember to see if there's any significance to it," said Chief of Detectives with the Yakima Sheriff's office, Stew Graham... KIMA met neighbors Monday who told us they called 911 when they saw the fire in the middle of the night. We also met a high school senior who says he braved the flames trying to help get his neighbors out. Kyle Kluever was up late Sunday night. And it's a good thing. He spotted the fire right away. "It was right where that red car is at and I thought that ridge was going to be on fire," said Kyle. When Kyle saw the flames on the ridge he jumped in his car and drove to his friend's house, had him call 9-1-1. Then he got back in his car and drove up Falcon Ridge to the Miller's burning house. By then, the flames were covering the front of the house. A car in the driveway was even scorched. Kyle said, "They were pretty intense, I'd say they were coming a good ten feet off the ground." He also said he got as close as he could, trying to wake up anyone inside, "But there's ammunition that was firing off, too, so I just kind of got out of there and woke up some more neighbors and went around back, because the back wasn't on fire yet." He tried yelling, but got no response. KIMA asked,"And you didn't see any people whatsoever?" Kyle answered, "No, I didn't"... We also asked the sheriff's office if they had found anything that seemed suspicious near the house. Detective Stew Graham said no. [Full article here]

...[Becky] Evins can't understand why her nephew and the Millers couldn't escape. "It seems very unusual that a house would become engulfed in flames to the point where they, you know, were unable to get out so quick," she says...

Answers from Autopsies
Kapptv
By David Mance.
August 17th, 2010
[Excerpts] The aunt of one of the troopers killed in yesterday's house fire near Zillah tells us she has questions about her nephew's death... The fire killed two troopers and a state patrol dispatcher. Autopsies will determine whether the fire was accidental, or something more sinister. "I think he would have excelled at it," says Becky Evins of Eureka, Montana. She's proud of her nephew Kristopher Sperry. He was about to start a new job as a Washington State Patrol trooper based out of Grandview. "He wasn't going into it, oh you know for the glory type things, Kris would have done it because he felt there was a need," says Evins. Trooper Sperry will never fulfill that potential... Evins can't understand why her nephew and the Millers couldn't escape. "It seems very unusual that a house would become engulfed in flames to the point where they, you know, were unable to get out so quick," she says. However, a trooper who knew the victims doesn't believe they were targeted by anyone with a grudge... The autopsies on them should provide some answers. "We'll be able to tell that, you know, if they weren't shot, stabbed or something like that, or if there was an assault or anything," says Yakima county coroner Jack Hawkins. Autopsy results are expected by tomorrow afternoon... Counselors have been called in to help state patrol employees cope with the death of their colleagues. [Full article here]

Local 911 supervisor believed dead in fire: Miller-Hewitt may have called 911 from Zillah home
wenatcheeworld.com
By K.C. Mehaffey
World staff writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
[Excerpts] Anne Miller-Hewitt, who supervised the Washington State Patrol’s 911 Center in Wenatchee, was among three Washington State Patrol employees who officials believe died in a house fire early Monday. Miller-Hewitt, 54, lived in Zillah, but rented a place in Wenatchee and spent weekdays here ever since she became the agency’s dispatch supervisor in 2007, said Trooper Rich Magnussen. She apparently reported the fire at about 1:30 a.m., said Washington State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley. “It’s our understanding that the 911 call was placed from the residence, and it was a female, or someone who identified herself as Anne,” he said. “We know the line went dead during the conversation.” Miller-Hewitt commuted to Zillah on weekends to be with her husband, Trooper Gary Miller... [Full article here]

No indications of foul play in fatal blaze: Extensive damage at site may keep investigators from determining cause of fire that killed three
Yakima Herald-Republic
by Mark Morey
August 17, 2010 AT 09:56AM
[Excerpts] It’s too early to say when investigators might declare a cause for the Monday fire that killed three Washington State Patrol employees outside Zillah, and because the damage was so extensive, authorities say it’s possible they’ll never be able to determine how the fire started. "We’re not going to know any time soon — if at all," said Stew Graham, chief of detectives for the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office. "It’s not a sure thing they will be able to tell us definitively the cause. They’ll do their best"... All three bodies were recovered from the home’s daylight basement, where Sperry was living temporarily. Because the upper two floors collapsed in the fire, it was unclear where the victims were in the home or whether they were trying to escape, Graham said... Graham said he expected work at the scene of the fire to conclude by this weekend. He did not predict when investigators would issue a final report. While authorities haven’t ruled out any possible causes for the early-morning fire, they tamped down any suggestion of arson, or that the State Patrol employees had been the target of threats... One item missing from the investigation is a recording of the 9-1-1 call Miller-Hewitt made at 1:08 a.m. Monday to report the fire. The call was not archived at the city of Yakima’s dispatch center because of a recorder problem that started last Thursday, center manager Wayne Wantland said. Wantland said he was waiting for a part to be shipped but that he thought the machine had been successfully repaired. The recorder failed again on Sunday night, about three hours before the call. Graham said Miller-Hewitt was able to report the fire and provide the address of the home. The dispatcher told her to leave, and Miller-Hewitt said she would before the call ended. Not having the tape likely won’t affect the investigation because the phone call was brief and Miller-Hewitt didn’t provide other information... Sgt. Freddy Williams, a spokesman for the State Patrol in Olympia, said the Grandview troopers attended a session Tuesday with the department psychologist. Similar sessions were held for the patrol’s Yakima dispatchers and other agency employees. "The State Patrol is starting the healing process," Williams said... [Full article here]

Officials scrutinizing 'every possibility' for fire: Among questions: Why didn't anyone escape after 9-1-1 call?
Yakima Herald-Republic
By Phil Ferolito and David Lester
[Excerpts] Sadness loomed over the Washington State Patrol on Monday as investigators began combing through the charred rubble of a house fire that claimed the lives of three comrades... [State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley] and others were careful not to rule out foul play or other possibilities, saying only that if there’s evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the investigation will be turned over to the Sheriff’s Office... Miller-Hewitt called 9-1-1 at 1:07:59 a.m. to report the fire, according to the administrator of Yakima’s emergency call center... Troopers speculated about what might have happened, and why no one escaped from the fire. One wondered whether the Millers got delayed trying to save Sperry, who may have been sleeping in a basement apartment... A mile marker with [Troopr Gary] Miller’s badge number was erected where the accident occurred — just a friendly reminder from his co-workers... [Full article here]

3 State Patrol Employees Killed In Wash. Fire
kirotv.com
August 17, 2010U
[Excerpts] Investigators found the remains of three Washington State Patrol employees who were killed early Monday morning in a house fire in the worst single-day loss of life in the agency's history... Police told KIRO-TV in Seattle that [Anne] Miller-Hewitt was the one who called 911 at 1:38 a.m. Monday, saying, "My house is on fire." Then, dispatchers said, the line went dead. By the time firefighters arrived, the house was consumed by flames, firefighters said... [Full article here]

Investigators looking for cause of fatal Zillah fire
KING 5 News
August 17, 2010 at 9:21 AM
[Excerpts] ...Police say there was a brief 911 call from Ann Miller-Hewitt at about 1:38 a.m. Monday. "She said the house was on fire, she provided the address. The 911 dispatcher told her to leave the residence. She said they were going to and the call was terminated," said Stew Graham, Yakima Co. Sheriff's Office.... [Full article here]

Memorial service set for 3 WSP employees killed in Zillah fire
News Tribune
Posted By Stacey Mulick
August 19, 2010
[Excerpts] ... A community service honoring the lives of Washington State Patrol Trooper Gary Miller, Communications Officer Anne Miller-Hewitt, and Trooper Kristopher Sperry will be held on Friday, August 27, at 1:00 p.m. at the Yakima Sundome. The public is welcomed to attend... For officers who may wish to participate, a law enforcement procession will take place prior to the service... Those wishing to make a donation may contact the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation... [Full article here.]

Officials finish work at fatal fire scene near Zillah
Yakima Herald-Republic
Mark Morey
Friday, August 20, 2010 AT 11:14PM
[Excerpts]
Investigators on Friday wrapped up their collection of potential evidence from the scene of a house fire that killed three Washington State Patrol employees on Monday... No preliminary decisions have been made about the cause or starting point of the fire, but the investigation has not revealed any suggestion that foul play was involved in the deaths, said Stew Graham, the sheriff's chief of detectives... The State Patrol's crime lab earlier this week completed tests of soil samples and materials where a dog signaled there were accelerants. "It's been helpful," Graham said about that analysis, adding, "It's as much to exclude things as it is it to point toward things." Graham declined to release the results of those tests, but he has said that discovery of accelerants would be common at a fire scene because of various petroleum-based products... [Full article here]

VIDEOS
- Raw video from the Zillah fire scene
- House Fire Kills 3 WSP Employees
- WSP Employees Killed In House Fire
- Three WSP employees killed in Zillah house fire
- UPDATE: WSP Employees Killed By Smoke Inhalation
- [WA] Authorities working to determine how Zillah fire starrted
- [WA] Investigators concerned why no one got out of Zillah fire - Many questions remain unanswered and the fire is being treated as a homicide.
- [WA] Biggest loss to Washington State Patrol in one day ever - Neighbor Dolly saw and reported the fire after using the bathroom first.
- [WA] Early news report of Zillah fire that killed 3 - Every trooper wants and needs answers.
- [WA] Fellow WSP troopers sad, shocked over Zillah fire - WSP Sgt. Tom Foster and others speak.
- [WA] WSP Chief Batiste on Zillah fire that killed 3 personnel
- [WA] WSP Lt.: "The magnitude of this loss is just horrific to comprehend."

COMMENTS from article websites:

...God bless the men and women in law enforcement. These who have passed and the living will be in my prayers. This is a sad loss for the State of Washington, the families and friends of these individuals and those of us whose lives were made safer by their selfless efforts. I hope that they did not suffer... May God grant those who have persihed, peace and a place of honor in his kingdom. May God also grant comfort to those living persons who are personally affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief.

...I am interested to see what forensics come up with, particularly the headspace gas chromatogram... Prayers and condolences to the families of the troopers.

...I've known Trooper Miller since I was a child in Grandview, WA... Gary's friendship meant a lot to my family and to me. Seeing him continue to love his job as a Trooper for many years, made me take pride in knowing him. I loved looking at the various WSP vehicles and hoping to see that "one" that sported the infamous 997 license plate... Peace be with the three of you and thank you for everything! Your service meant so much to so many!

...3 adults die in a housefire, it seems a bit suspicious, no smoke alarm ?...

...The Millers were such a proactive community oriented couple in the Yakima area. Gary more so patrolled the county more than just the highways. Gary was known for being generous. He used to give the drunks walking on a shoulder a ride home if he passed by and always helped people who's cars had broken down on the highway. Could never miss that jovial personality. The couple always supported school fund raisers. They lived just a few roads over from me. It bums me out to know this. They were such good people.

...I am sure the lady was Anne Hewitt the daughter of a Benton County Judge, Who went to Yakima Valley community college in the early 70 s was a nice and fun girl that was kind to everyone.. Some central washington basketball players were from the east coast and she
showed them Seattle and all over the state... Rest in Peace, I am so sorry for your loss Hewitt family and Sperry and Miller families

...that was her.

I pray this was an accident, I have known Gary right from the start of when he started here in the Valley. Worked with him, I find it hard to believe the fire never woke them up. It just does not sound right, I am in shock that three persons are gone...
[police officer law enforcement public safety fatality fatalities washington state tragedy unsolved unresolved funeral]

4 comments:

  1. Posted by ogre at 08/16/10 11:12AM
    Wow. RIP all. I hope it was an accident and not foul play.

    Posted by dolphin at 08/16/10 03:22PM
    I pray this was an accident, I have known Gary right from the start of when he started here in the Valley. Worked with him, I find it hard to believe the fire never woke them up. It just does not sound right, I am in shock that three persons are gone. I pray this was not intentionally provoked.

    http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2010/08/16/two-state-troopers-dispatcher-reportedly-killed-in-zillah-house-fire

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry for saying this but it is very suspicious that they lost the tape of Anne's 911 call.

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  3. Here's the most recent, from last month:

    ATF Rules Cause of Deadly Zillah Fire as Undetermined
    By KIMA Staff
    Aug 16, 2011

    ATF NEWS RELEASE -- Last year, on August 16th, 2010, three employees of the Washington State Patrol were killed in a house fire in Zillah, Washington. Today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced their investigation has classified the cause and origin of the fire as “undetermined”.

    State Patrol Trooper Gary Miller, his wife Anne Miller-Hewitt and State Patrol Trooper Kristopher Sperry, died in the early morning fire. Anne Miller-Hewitt was a dispatch supervisor in the State Patrol’s communication’s office in Wenatchee.

    “At this point it is unknown what caused the fire.” said Kelvin Crenshaw, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division. “Sometimes answers can be elusive but that does not mean they can never be found - we remain mindful of that fact. What we do know is that we will never forget the horrible tragedy of this loss - or the dedication, strength and commitment to service that these three very special lives represented.”

    “We miss Gary, Anne and Kris terribly,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “They were the kinds of public servants that all of us aspire to be. We very much appreciate the extraordinary effort that ATF has put toward determining the cause of this awful tragedy.”

    http://www.kimatv.com/news/127905923.html

    ReplyDelete

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